Head and neck desmoplastic melanoma: Utility of sentinel node biopsy

John R. Sims, Carilyn N. Wieland, Jan Kasperbauer, Eric J. Moore, Daniel L. Price

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations


Purpose The utility of sentinel lymph node biopsy in desmoplastic melanoma has been questioned due to multiple reports of a low rate of occult nodal metastasis in this variant of melanoma. We describe a single institution experience with management of desmoplastic melanoma of the head and neck and discuss the utility of sentinel lymph node biopsy. Materials and methods A retrospective review was performed of 49 patients with desmoplastic melanoma of the head and neck at a tertiary care center from 1994 to 2014. Results Sentinel lymph node biopsy was performed in 15 patients. Only 1 (6.7%) of these patients was found to have a positive sentinel node. Of the 46 patients without evidence of neck disease at presentation, 3 (6.5%) were found to have occult nodal disease or developed neck recurrences. When looking at the entire cohort, there were a total of 16 recurrences in 14 patients (28.6%). The majority (85.7%) of recurrences were either local or distant metastasis with only 2 (14.3%) recurrences being in regional lymph node basins. The overall rates of local, regional, and distant recurrences were 14.2%, 4.1%, and 10.2% respectively. The mixed pathologic subtype was not associated with a higher rate of nodal metastasis. Conclusions Desmoplastic melanoma has a low rate of occult nodal metastasis and a high propensity to recur locally or as a distant metastasis, regardless of regional node status. Our experience combined with the uncertain impact that sentinel node status has on survival raises the question of the utility of routine sentinel node biopsy in this specific variant of melanoma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)537-541
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Medicine and Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology

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